How strong is a piece of paper?

By discoverylab | January 21, 2016 | Uncategorized

This morning I asked our class, do you think we can balance books on top of a paper standing on end?  “No!”  What if we fold it or roll it?  “Maybe” they replied.  I made three shapes we have been working with during our shapes and engineering unit.

Here you can see the circles, squares and triangles we used in our Snowflake Symmetry project.
Here you can see the circles, squares and triangles we used in our Snowflake Symmetry project.

Out of ordinary copy paper we rolled a circle, triangle and square.  I asked the students to predict which one would be the strongest.  They all concluded the square would be the strongest.  Harlow said, “All the corners make it strong.” Emmett agreed, “The sides will help it to stay up.”

We weighed some Magic Tree house Books to see if they were similar in weight.

Louie and Emmett checking to see if these volumes are equally weighted.
Louie and Emmett checking to see if these volumes are equally weighted.

Next, I gave Emmett the triangle, Harlow the square and Louie the cylinder and everyone started stacking.

They were amazed one sheet of paper could hold even one book.
They were amazed one sheet of paper could hold even one book.

After seven books the triangle crumpled.  After twelve books, the square crashed down.  The cylinder had won!  How many you ask?  Twenty five!

The cylinder held twenty five books before it fell!
The cylinder held twenty five books before it fell!

Making and testing our hypothesis with the scientific method is something we do often in the Discovery Lab.